Thursday, April 9, 2015

Love - An Experiment in Embroidery

I love to make things.  Conceiving of an idea, picking out patterns and fabrics, and putting it all together brings me all kinds of gladness in my heart.  In general when I start a project, I have someone in mind.  That person drives every single choice I make even if the overall vibe is something that pleases me.  There's a delicate balance between making something that will please someone else and making something that will please me.

This is why, for me, gifts are more enjoyable to make than commissions.  Don't get me wrong, the experiences I've had with commissioned pieces have been good.  It's nice to make something that you know is exactly what the person who is getting it wants.  (The payday doesn't stink either.)  BUT.  It sucks just a little bit of the joy out of it to do all of the work but get none of the creative control.

I finished this project recently for a cousin of mine who is getting married next month.  I badgered her sisters and Grandma to give me the details on what Bible verses the couple was using for the wedding as well as favorite colors.  Given my recent interest in embroidery I knew that I wanted to stitch up the verse in some fashion, but that was as far as I had gotten in the process for at least a month.

Finally I got the details I needed from the pertinent relatives, and I set about searching around for inspiration.  If you're looking for something personal to give to a couple, Etsy/other sites are loaded with people who will stitch you up a verse or a favorite quote.  I found a lot of good ideas there.  But it wasn't quite what I wanted.  I searched some more.  When in doubt, Google it, right?

I'm glad I ended up doing that because I came across a site that I just fell in love with.  Hand Lettering Co. is loaded with artwork that I could picture in every room of my house.  And wouldn't you know, there was a print of the exact verse that I was looking to stitch up.

It's a popular one in weddings.  "The Love Verse" many people call it.  It's 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Love by Hand Lettering Co.
I just fell in love with this.  Hard.  I contacted Hand Lettering Co., told them about the project I wanted to do, and asked if I could have their blessing to recreate this piece of art in embroidery.  I was elated when Chris got back to me with a YES.  :)

I fiddled around with a few different fabrics before settling on this one from Melody Miller's Mustang line (Rose Border - Multi).  The colors are right up my cousin's alley.
Rose Border - Multi by Melody Miller for Cotton + Steel
I had to monkey with the fabric a bit to get it positioned the way I wanted it.  I cut out some of the flowers and appliqued them on the background fabric.  At many points in the process I worried that it was all going to be too busy, but I forged ahead anyhow.  I decided to keep the embroidery all in one color both for simplicity of stitching and to quiet down a bit everything else that I had going on.  After several nights of cutting and fusing and machine sewing and hand stitching I ended up with this:

The embroidery was done with navy thread in a variety of widths.  Mostly it's just backstitch, but there are a few daisy stitches tossed in and chain stitch done around each letter.  It's not perfect, but I'm still happy with how it turned out.

And yes - - I did use the Fabri-Solvy on this project.  I told you I was obsessed with it!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Feeling a Bit Stitchy Actually

When I was a kid, my mom taught me how to cross stitch.  She has been avid stitcher for as long as I can remember, and as many young girls would say about their moms, I wanted to be just like her.

This is neither me, nor my mom.  But I was pretty young when I first learned.  You get the idea:

Learning to Cross-Stitch
[Image by Squiggle via Flickr used under CC]

I was never a great cross stitcher.  Sure, I completed a few small projects.  I struggled through but eventually learned how to do half stitches, french knots, and backstitches.  I even did a few lazy daisy stitches here and there.  But my real problem is that I would get way too ambitious with projects.  I had my mom's whole arsenal of DMC floss to keep me going, but the problem was never lack of supplies.  It was choosing some large scale super involved pattern that I would burn out on after awhile because it just took TOO LONG.  The problem is, the small projects never satisfied me.  Sure, I could actually complete them, but it was pretty clear that they were rather simple.  "Something anyone could do," I would think to myself.

What I didn't realize back then, is that while I might not have had the interest/endurance for large scale cross stitch, some seeds had been planted in me.  Seeds of enjoyment and delight in tiny stitches.  While my mom did not raise me on a sewing machine, I do believe that she was the one who really inspired my love of working with fabric and thread.

tast 2012 #18: crossed buttonhole stitch
[Image by Audrey B. via Flickr used under CC]

Over this past winter, I did a bit more experimentation with hand stitching.  I think I've realized that the key for me is a simple project that has enough variety that I don't get bored, but not so much stitch counting and chart reading that I completely punk out on the project.

A couple of things I discovered as I went on a little stitch odyssey over the last 6 months.
  • Fabri-Solvy.  This I actually learned about from my friend, Larissa, and I am OBSESSED with it.  Basically, make/find your design on the computer, print it out on a sheet of this stuff, and you can peel it off and place it on your fabric like a sticker.  Your stitching is precise, you don't have to draw on your fabric with anything, and when you're done you can just stick it in some warm water and dissolve it away.  POOF.  It is seriously awesome, guys.
  • Working with a lot of colors is great, but the constant thread switching can get tedious after awhile.  If you want to make sure you actually finish a project, consider starting with something you can do all in one color.  You can even cut up a bunch of floss and thread a bunch of needles before you start so you don't have to stop and re-thread as often.  Redwork is a place to start, but really any design you find appealing that you can imagine in one color would work.  
  • I don't know a lot about embroidery, really, but my feeling is that it is a lot more freestyle than cross stitch.  If you use the Fabri-Solvy you can ditch the idea that you need a chart and just stitch away.  You never lose your place, you don't have to count, and it is easy to watch whole seasons of Dr. Who (which you somehow never realized you would completely love if you would only give it a chance) while you work on your project.

Anyway, wanted to give a little intro to some posts I'm planning on some embroidery projects I have completed recently.  It's a bit of a departure from my usual sewing projects, but I've really enjoyed getting a needle back in my hand after all these years.

Do you embroider?  Cross stitch?  Watch Dr. Who?  What have you been making lately?

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